At the end of last semester when senior Tessa Ehrlich was supposed to be logging onto the final Zoom call for her US History class, she was sleeping instead. Ehrlich overslept and showed up unprepared for her final.
“I woke up to my friend calling me to get on the Zoom, but I was still in bed,” Ehrlich said. “I quickly grabbed my computer and got on the Zoom, but my camera was on and the whole class saw me lying in bed completely unprepared for the Zoom.”
Ehrlich said that moment was so embarrassing for her because she woke up as a mess and had no time to get ready. And to make matters worse, because she was late, Ehrlich said all eyes were on her when she logged onto the class.
“I looked like an idiot,” Ehrlich said.
Ehrlich attributes embarrassing Zoom moments like these to the fact that students are more absentminded and lazy over Zoom because they are at home for school.
“Embarrassing moments are definitely happening more often now over Zoom because it’s easy to be careless while on Zoom rather than when you’re in class,” Ehrlich said.
From accidentally falling asleep on camera to forgetting to mute and blurting out an expletive, online school has a learning curve many Paly students are progressing through via trial and error.
Even before school went virtual, students and teachers had their share of embarrassing moments. But just as the situation with online learning is unprecedented, so are the number of Zoom bloopers.
Paly teacher Greer Stone, who said he is glad to have not yet had an embarrassing Zoom moment of his own, agreed with Ehrich that a spike of embarrassing moments happening in class is because people tend to be more careless over Zoom than they are in person.
“On Zoom it’s so easy for somebody to be in the background or for you to say something to someone who’s just off screen or to your mom walking in and maybe forget that you’re not muted. Or maybe you stand up and you forget that you’re wearing like your PJ bottoms,” Stone said.
To avoid his own embarrassing moments, Stone said he is cognizant of what is behind him and visible on his screen, but also said it is easy for teachers and students to forget to be cautious in the comfort of their own homes.
Sophomore Abdullah Navaid hasn’t yet had his own embarrassing moment but has witnessed several. Navaid said unfamiliarity with distance learning is a factor that, alongside carelessness, contributes to embarrassing Zoom moments.
“I think embarrassing moments are starting to happen over Zoom more often because in this environment. It’s just hard to understand,” Navaid said. “Sometimes teachers don’t understand the software. Sometimes students don’t understand the software. I feel like because we are very unfamiliar with the technology, and we are unfamiliar with learning this way, there are going to be more embarrassing moments.”
Stone, Ehrlich and Navaid all said students need to approach the topic of embarrassing moments with a different perspective than the way they are currently thinking about these situations.
“I would say immediately mute yourself and then maybe just send a private message to the teacher or class saying, “Sorry. I didn’t realize I wasn’t on mute,” Stone said. “And also just don’t make a bigger deal out of it. A lot of times if something embarrassing happens to you, you think the whole world is focused on you. When in reality, most people don’t care or maybe didn’t even notice.”
Ehrlich said taking the approach of not judging others is the way to stop embarrassing Zoom moments from being all that embarrassing.
“Embarrassing Zoom moments can be stopped if everyone stops judging each other and everyone just vibes together,” Ehrlich said. “If people aren’t judging each other, then the moment doesn’t even feel as embarrassing.”
And Navaid said it’s fine to be in an awkward situation.
“Don’t think of it as embarrassing because no one else is going to care about your Zoom moment,” Navaid said. “The less embarrassed you get from something happening to you, the more likely people disregard it.”